Aware of the challenge that awaits India against Japan, men's hockey team skipper Harmanpreet Singh said they will need to strengthen their defence and be ready to switch tactics against the defending champions during their Asian Games clash on Thursday. (Medal Tally | Schedule | Full Coverage | More Sports News)
India have hardly been troubled so far, having won their first two games by big margins. India defeated Uzbekistan 16-0 in their opening Pool A game last week before mauling Singapore 16-1 in another lop-sided contest.
However, India will perhaps face their toughest challenge yet in the competition when they take on the 2018 Asian Games gold medallists.
"We are aware of the level of competition that we will face tomorrow. Japan have a strong unit and we are familiar with their strengths and weaknesses," said Harmanpreet Singh.
"We have to focus on our own style of play, but we have to also be ready to switch tactics as and when needed on the field to get a good result."
Japan too have been unbeaten in the Games, having beaten Bangladesh 7-2 in their first Pool A match, and then claiming a 10-1 win over Uzbekistan in their second game.
"Japan have plenty of goal-scorers in their team, and hence our defence needs to be strong to tackle their attacking movements," said Harmanpreet, who scored four goals against Singapore.
"We have to constantly be aware of their movements, especially when we are out of possession so that we can close the gaps on time, and do not allow them to dictate the pace of the game. It will be an interesting contest and we are all ready for it."
India defeated Japan 5-0 in their last meeting in the semi-final of the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai last month. India also recorded a 1-1 draw against Japan in the same tournament in the Pool match.
Since 2013, the two teams have met 26 times with India winning 21 times.
"We have played against Japan recently, which gives us confidence going into the match," Vice-Captain Hardik Singh said.
"But at the same time, they have also seen our style of play quite recently, so they will also come up with strategies to counter the same.
"Hence, we expect it to be a close contest. If we make correct decisions on the field, we will get a positive result from the game."